Congratulations to Epiphany Episcopal Messy Church!
We are excited to announce that Epiphany Episcopal Church in Newport, NH is our Messy Church (MC) of the month. It was exciting to hold a Getting Started in Messy Church training in the beautiful sanctuary of Epiphany in October 2019(when we could actually meet in person). Meeting Aaron Jenkyn, the missioner for Epiphany, and learning how the church has transformed over the past several years was inspiring. Aaron shared some of her innovative ways of connecting Messy Church folk during the pandemic in a Messy Adventure blogpost. Epiphany Episcopal lives up to its name by being a beacon of light to the community! Read on to hear the story of Epiphany Messy Church through the eyes of Aaron.
What do you like best about Messy Church?
Messy Church has bridged our church and community in ways that we never imagined possible and has helped even long time members of the church encounter the living God in new ways. What has emerged for us is a genuine community, of people new to faith, and with a life long faith, across all walks of life, growing in faith together. It would be hard to separate out a favorite part, but the way that story sharing is woven throughout all our time together, first in the conversations around the activity tables, then in the story and celebration time, and finally around the table for a meal and in the cleaning up afterwards is a part that stands out above the rest.
The format of Messy Church, and the shape of the time together in community, listening and interacting, and connecting each of our stories to the story of God is unlike any other form of church that I’ve participated in, it truly honors each persons experience. A close second would be the meal time, we’ve had some amazingly delicious meals and celebrations around our Messy Church dinner tables!
Some Favorite Messy Activities at Epiphany
Magnetic word poetry has been a favorite that we have brought back several times
Gingerbread nativity scene
Bread painting as part of “Give us this day our daily bread“
Smashing our own communion wine out of grapes that we grew
Anything Extra Messy!
What worked well for you as you began your Messy Church?
We had already established strong connections in our community through outreach and mission work, so offering Messy Church to the families we already served was a natural progression of our community ministry. We run afterschool programs and had a strong connection with the local school, so getting word out to families about this new thing we were trying wasn’t hard. And once the kids came, they were begging their families to come back for me, and bringing their friends along. I think that without this presence in the community, it would have been hard to establish Messy Church.
Share a challenge that you have encountered
With a small but very active congregation it has been a challenge to find the volunteers and time to plan for Messy Church activities. This evolved over the 18 months that we have been doing Messy Church, and as families became regulars, they also began to join in the planning and preparation, especially around the meal times, which made things easier. But it was clear from the start that we couldn’t do this more than once a month because of the amount of work that it was.
Messy Church has bridged our church and community in ways that we never imagined possible and has helped even long time members of the church encounter the living God in new ways.”Aaron Jenkyn, Missioner of Epiphany Episcopal
How has your Messy Church adapted during COVID-19?
Our Messy Church was on the near side of established when Covid hit in March. We were just falling into a monthly pattern of worship and had engaged a wonderful volunteer team that helped lighten the load, when the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire had to close all churches as a result of the spreading virus. There were a lot of tears in those early weeks, the children (and their parents) were devastated, and as a staff it was hard to imagine that there would be a way for Messy Church to continue through a pandemic. For us, the core parts of Messy Church were the togetherness, and we couldn’t see a way to do that online, so instead of trying to recreate the worship experience, we opted to double down on pastoral care and prayer at home. We stayed connected with all our volunteers and members through masked drive way visits, prayer calls, old fashion letters, and even paired families to stay in touch with each other and check in during the lockdown.
By early summer, when the lockdown restrictions were lifted and we knew that gathering outside (within our bubbles) was safe, we designed Messy Adventures, a series of outdoor Adventures for families to do on their own. We linked a bible passage with an activity and conversation prompts and invited people to participate and share their experience with us on social media.
Finally, for the holidays, we continued to offer at home opportunities for families, but added in a Sunday evening Zoom experience, where we watched a short video together, shared stories within our family units, then joined back together for more conversation, prayer and to light the Advent candles. This model was surprisingly effective, and we had more than seven households participate each week. The weekly services culminated in an interactive outdoor story walk, that was open to everyone in the community. Not quite Messy Church, but a Messy like offering that brought more than 22 households into the mystery of Christmas this season.
We don’t anticipate gathering in person indoors for quite some time, so we plan to continue to adapt, think outside the box, and offer a combination of at home worship opportunities, outdoor story walks and Zoom gatherings. We are also working on outdoor Messy Church ideas for when the weather warms up and gathering in person becomes a safe option.
Thanks for sharing your story!
Epiphany Episcopal is located at 2 Cedar Street, Newport NH.
Contact Aaron Jenkyn at firstname.lastname@example.org